Magdalene Laundries - often described as "prisons" by the women who worked in them - were established in the 18th century for Ireland's 'fallen' women and remained in operation until 1996, when the last laundry closed.
An estimated 30,000 women and girls are thought to have been institutionalized for a myriad of reasons, from being 'bold' to having a child out of wedlock. They were forced to work long hours in poor conditions for no pay.
Boston resident James Smith, who is from Ireland and working in Boston College, spearheaded a sustained campaign for Justice for Magdalene Laundry women in both the UK and Ireland between 2001 and 2004. This campaign led to a number of important legislative and policy initiatives that recognized the State had a duty to acknowledge its role (and historically the lack of it) in relation to the Magdalene Laundry women. These initiatives included the McAleese Inquiry, carried out by Dr Martin McAleese and subsequently the report from Judge John Quirke who was tasked with creating recommendations for a Restorative Justice Scheme that would be non-adversarial.
After meeting with a group of inspirational Magdalene Laundry women, the Taoiseach was moved by their stories and understood the sense of injustice these Survivors felt about their ordeals in earlier life. With the promise to set the future straight and acknowledge the failures of successive governments to hear the voices of these women, the Taoiseach made a powerful state apology and invited Justice John Quirke to look into developing a compensation scheme for the Magdalene Women.
Restorative Justice Scheme
In June 2013 it was announced that a scheme of payments for women who were admitted to and worked in the Magdalene Laundries, St Mary’s Training Centre Stanhope Street and House of Mercy Training School, Summerhill, Wexford would be launched. This followed the publication of the report by Justice Quirke, President of the Law Reform Commission, on the establishment of a scheme and support for the women affected.
Mr Justice Quirke’s most significant recommendation is that the women in question should all receive cash payments in the range €11,500 (duration of stay 3 months or less) to €100,000 (duration of stay of 10 years or more). If the cash payment due is above €50,000, Justice Quirke recommends that it should paid in the form of a lump sum of €50,000 plus an annual payment related to the notional remaining lump, sum to be paid weekly. The amount to be paid depends on the duration of stay of a resident in a Magdalene Laundry.
Since the announcement, the Irish Department of Justice and Equality processed applications immediately and does so to this day. Successful applicants are able to access lump sum payments (based on their duration of stay in Magdalene Laundry), an Irish pension and an Irish medical card.
How can those affected apply?
If you were resident in a Magdalene Laundry in Ireland, (or if you know someone who was) and would like to find out more about the Restorative Justice Scheme, please feel free to contact the Irish Pastoral Centre confidentially on 617-265-5300 Ext 10 or via email to email@example.com
Applications can be made with our support or directly through the Department of Justice and Equality. To make a confidential call to the Department from outside of the Republic of Ireland, the number to dial is: 00 353 1 476 8660.
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By post: Restorative Justice Scheme, Department of Justice and Equality, Montague Court, 7-11 Montague Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.